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Ode to Blizzard: The Two Decade Storm

When you say the name Blizzard, anyone with two nipples and an asshole gets all puckered in the backside and sharp in the front.. So, where do you even start explaining the un-natural wonder-gods that are the folks at Blizzard?

20 years ago in the small town of Irvine, California, the date was February 8th 1991. Three bros decided to start a development company; they called themselves Silicon & Synapse. Michael Morhaime, Frank Pearce and Allen Adham set out to assist other developers with products before eventually making their own titles. What would later come as the first Blizzard games has since turned into cult classics and fan-boy first-love titles.


The Early Days:


To say that the folks at Silicon & Synapse were ground breakers is the weakest attempt at immortalizing ever committed. We are talking about the video game industries very own gods. These are some of the most iconic cult-classic games of all time. S&S started off developing ports of existing franchises such as the original Lord of the Rings as well as BattleChess 1 & 2.

Silicon & Synapse then started the development of their own games, stating with the release of The Lost Vikings in 1992. S&S then released Rock N’ Roll Racing the year after. These two games might not seem that special to gamers growing up in this generation of titles, but S&S changed a lot of peoples perspective on video games with the release of the aforementioned franchises. Silicon & Synapse released a slue of titles (most of which were ports) within the first 3 years of existence.



The Birth of Blizzard:


It was a big day for Davidson & Associates, whom for $6.75 Million purchased Silicon & Synapse. The year was 1994 and the future of PC gaming was solidified. The company changed its name to Chaos Studios, until later deciding on Blizzard Entertainment after the realization that the name Chaos was in use. Here in lays the beginning to the rest of your gaming experience on the computer.

The first title ever released under the Blizzard name was the 1994 game Blackthorne. Published by Interplay and released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The games stylish platforming flew under the radar of most. It wasn’t until the historic release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in the same year that Blizzard really burst onto the scene and forever cemented its staring role in our hearts. This game would eventually become the eye of the proverbial “storm” that is Blizzard, as we know it today.

You see kids, the reason Blizzard is the godfather of PC Gaming is this; they never tried to fit inside of the “mold”. The creative minds inside the company used ingenuity and desire to create the standards to which games on the platform are compared. Blizzard wrote the bible, made the commandments, designed the sport and perfected the mold.



The Big Three:


In the early 90’s Blizzard followed up its successful Warcraft title with a sequel and eventually an expansion to that sequel. In 1997 Blizzard created (and unknowingly perfected) the dungeon crawler RPG with its massively epic Diablo game. The year that was post-Diablo went down in history for its own reason, the phenomenon that was StarCraft. Improving its design, moving their real-time strategy concept from the fantasy realm and into outer space, Blizzard managed to sweep up any gamer that wasn’t already hooked on their games.

In the creation and development of these three franchises, Blizzard has created an impenetrable fortress of success and top tier games. With one (or all) of these three titles in your collection during the 90’s, all of your PC gaming needs had been met. Anyone with the misfortune of not getting the chance to play one of the above was an outcast.



Continual Evolution:


Since the days it burst upon the scene, Blizzard and its’ people have never slowed down. We (the gamers) owe a lot to these folks. With every release and every development, the minds behind these titles continue to revolutionize their industry.

The involvement of the team at Blizzard Entertainment within the gaming community is by in large such a big part of their fan-boy draw. No one in this industry is as engaged and determined to meddle like that crew is. Every convention has an abundance of Blizz-reps and their booths explode with content and awesomeness. Every single April fools day is stricken with Blizzards sense of humor and is generally the best of the pranks pulled on that day.


The Con:


If you think for one second that Blizzard is less then it seems, I’ve got two words for you; Blizz and Con. Started in 2005 by Blizzard themselves in order to celebrate their major franchises.

Once a year (usually in the fall) all of the Blizzard fans gather in California for an over-all celebratory fashion. Considering the astounding number of fans that attend the Penn Arcade Expo (which hit 67,000 in 2011), a convention that is strictly only one development house alone draws in just over a third of the “big boys”. To attend a BlizzCon is profound. Never will you ever see such die-hard fans (in numbers) for a single Dev/Franchise.


The WoW-Factor:


In November of 2004 the world was introduced to Blizzard’s biggest “game-changer”. World of Warcraft was (and still is) the most celebrated and most played massively multiplayer online role-playing game to date.

The world of WoW has become the home world of many. In October of 2010 it was estimated that the popular game had broken the 12 million-subscriber mark. Based on the rapid expansion of their game (both player-view and behind the curtains), Blizzard has created the inevitable “life-sucker”. Most commonly known as the most addictive non-drug since yawning, WoW even holds a Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG.

There are too many reasons to account for, but there are some very simple and reasonable reasons for the success behind WoW. It’s a social, ever changing, easy to play, hard to master, readily available, in-depth, well-designed and greatly rewarding game. Veterans who have been on board since day one have seen this game and world evolve by large amounts on numerous occasions. With three full expansions under its belt, WoW doesn’t seem to be slowing down. There is a large and uniquely epic team that is constantly working of new and improved WoW things.



Active Relations:


In 2008, Activision announced that it had closed a deal to merge assets with fellow publisher Vivendi Games. For those of you that don’t know, Vivendi is the holding company for Blizzard Entertainment and Sierra Entertainment. The merger between Activision and Vivendi would total a paycheck of 18.8 billion dollars and conclude in the renaming of the company to Activision Blizzard Inc. Both Activision and their partners Blizzard are still living as separate entities; it is just used as a holding company.


The Reign Today:


In the second decade of the 21st century, Blizzard is still on a no-holds-bar path to world domination. With the 2010 release of the third WoW expansion Cataclysm, they are still the kings of the PC world (with 64% MMORPG market share).

In some strange phenomenon blizzard is still constantly on the tongues of gamer’s worldwide. In Britney Spears type fashion; there hasn’t been a time frame within the history of Blizzard that let people lose interest. I quite honestly feel sorry for any other developer trying to compete; it’s not impossible to beat, just really tricky.

Fresh off of the debut that StarCraft II had at this years MLG season opener, this is another year that will most likely be owned by Blizzard. StarCraft II (released July of 2010) became the fastest selling Real Time Strategy game of all time within just the first 48 hours. Not to mention that the franchise itself is the biggest e-Sport competitive video game in the world. Aside from glory they are currently riding with the release of SCII, no one can stop thinking about the anticipated release of Diablo III. With the recent success of indie titles like Torchlight and numerous iPhone RPG’s, the hype and fan-base behind dungeon crawlers is at an all time high. In steps the next giant from Blizzard. With a release date that is still TBA, Diablo III is probably the highest anticipated game for PC.



Beyond Blizzard:


The company that has dominated the industry for two decades not only takes strides in innovation within their own doors; but also has had members move to other homes and continue to change the industry around them. In the “Blizzard Anniversary” edition of PC Gamer magazine, a nice little spreadsheet was created to give readers the idea of the scale to which Blizzard has influenced and grown.

Behind all of the relative information and examples to demonstrate the power behind Blizzard Entertainment lays one thing; great games for people to enjoy. Although there are a lot of empty spaces in the realm of video games, there is no one of greater hierarchy and respect then those at Blizzard. We owe a lot of our industry to the games that came to fruition at Blizzard. I know that I personally owe nearly all of my childhood and early gaming memories to Blizzard and will continue to love and support the work that they do. From the late stages of 1991, our hearts have been theirs.

Here’s to you Silicon & Synapse, Blizzard Entertainment and Acti-Blizz! Happy 20th anniversary.